Thursday, February 25, 2010

MOTW and best cookies ever

I know this isn't the messiest mess ever, but it sure did take a long time to pick up, so it sort of qualifies. Curtis's mom sent a whole bunch of stickers in a Valentine's Day box and the kids love them! They have been making so much sticker art, particularly on the plain backs of our big 2009 calendar.

This is one of the more elaborate pieces of art created by Vivian and Kathryn. Viv put it up on the fridge herself.

I made chocolate chip cookies yesterday, and this is a recipe that has been requested often by people who have tasted these. They are so good! The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated magazine. I love this magazine and the show the same people have on PBS, called America's Test Kitchen. They have a very scientific approach to developing recipes and I have found success with every recipe I have tried from these two sources. In fact, I ordered and just received in the mail today the companion cookbook to the 2009 season of America's Test Kitchen. It's so awesome! Mom and Lorna, this is where I got that great baked pork chop recipe I made the day (or two) before I had Betty last year. I haven't made the pork chops since then, but now I think I'll have good.
Anywho, here's the cookie recipe - it's a little different but worth it.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored than if you use the dark brown sugar it calls for.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter (I often use salted butter because it's usually what I have in the fridge - I just cut the added salt in half)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (this is less than one package)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional - I never put these in)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Whisk together flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet (or whatever you have - I have no idea what size the one I use is!) over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1-3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using a heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter in hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. (At this point, do yourself a favor and just taste this butter-sugar mixture. It is so good! Just don't eat too much or you might end up with dry-ish cookies. I'm not even kidding, I've "tasted" so much that it's happened to me.)

Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.

Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (the cookies pictured here were actually about 2 tablespoons each, but the really big ones have a great crisp/chewy ratio. whatever, they're all good). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
5. Bake cookies, one tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving. (This is one instance where I think that the COOL chocolate chip cookies are better than warm ones - somehow, it's true.)

They really are yummy...

Just a photo to admit that I don't always have "real" meals for my family. We had popcorn, green beans and sliced apples, nectarines, pears and plums for dinner last night. And we let them sit on the table. And two of the four kids were in their pajamas all day.
I'm not always on top of it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hillary Mount James Sparkle

This morning the kids put on a fashion show (which lasted approximately 2.3 seconds...about the right length, I thought) in their pjs. I don't have pictures because the camera was downstairs, but perhaps that's better as Viv was actually stark naked, save for several hairbands on her wrists (bracelets) and a whole bunch of colorful hair clips. When Kathryn came sashaying out (from behind Betty's crib) she announced "By Hillary Mount James Sparkle!" Dex didn't really know what was going on but he was game, whatever it was. He walked around a bit, too, in just a diaper, having already shed his pajamas.

Oh, the things parents think are hilarious.

Speaking of Dex in diapers...he went #2 in the toilet today! You may not understand (if you are not currently or have not been recently the parents of a small child) but that is a big deal. He got TWO M&Ms for that and a whole lot of praise.

Here are a few random photos. The first two are from our ride home from church. I always have lunches for the kids to eat on the way home because it's a 45 minute drive.

And, just because they're cute.

They sort of remind me of free kittens in a box outside of a grocery store.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

MOTW, dear husband and Chicken Tikka Masala

Something I've discovered about Mess Of The Week: if I take a picture and post it, I get pretty motivated to clean up the mess. I guess there's something about broadcasting my home's imperfections that makes me want to take care of business. This week's shot is of my craft room: Holy disaster, Batman!

See what I mean?

My craft room often ends up being the place where I put stuff I know I want to keep but don't have a good place to put. Formula cans that I'm saving for decorations at Evan and Jenni's wedding? Craft room. Baby gifts for a baby who isn't due for five more months? Craft room. 72-hour emergency kit? Craft room (really, not the best place for it - not super accessible in case of actual emergency).

Right after I took this photo I spent a good hour and a half, assisted by my dear, organized mother ("Here, give me all the quilt batting that's just flopping all over the place and I'll roll it up tight and bag it, then you stuff it right there and voila! More space!"), cleaning up the space. It's nearly done now. I need to spend about 30 more minutes in there, but it's sure hard to find 30 minutes sometimes. When it is all done I'll post a photo. It's such a beautiful room when it's clean and organized!

It was a surprise from Curtis almost 3 years ago. We had decided that little room would eventually be my craft room, but I didn't expect it to be a priority in the house renovation. But, when I came home from a week-long trip with Kathryn Vivian and my mother down in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to see Owen when he got home from Iraq, I was totally surprised to see that Curtis had worked so hard to get this room ready for me to move into. He had put up new drywall, painted it pink like he knew I wanted (and then painted it pink again when the first color turned out shockingly-over-the-top pink), put the light fixture up and cut out hearts to tape to the window. Seriously.

We got home late at night and after we had put the kids in bed I looked down the hallway and noticed the door to that room was shut but the light was on (I could see around the edges of the door.) It seemed odd, since it was a room that was never used, just full of tools, cans of paint and other renovation supplies. I said "Curtis, the light is on in the room at the end of the hall," and I went down to shut it off. Was I surprised when I opened the door! Truly one of the best surprises I've ever received. Stuff like that, that's romance. You can keep your poetry and red roses. I'll take the man who loves me enough to survive on four hours sleep a night for a week to surprise his sweetheart with a ridiculously pink craft room.

My brother Owen and his girlfriend Marci came up to send the day yesterday and I decided I would show off my mad cooking skillz and make Chicken Tikka Masala. You can find the recipe here It was super tasty but kind of a lot of work. It involved things like toasting spices and grinding them with a mortar and pestle and lots of chopping. Owen and Marci were very helpful in the chopping department - they would make great sous chefs.

The end product was worth it.
Super yum. Word of caution: wear rubber gloves when chopping the chiles! It took 24 hours for the burning on my right hand to completely subside. Also, I used half of the amount of chiles the recipe called for and I thought it was plenty spicy (granted, I am a wimp when it comes to that stuff, but even Marci, who likes heat, thought it had a "nice kick").

Also made some granola when Owen was here. Best granola ever. It's Casas comfort food. I used to send it to Owen when he was in Iraq and he loved it. It's a little different from other granolas in that it is not clumpy, but all loose instead.

Here's the recipe.


3 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup corn oil (reg veg oil works, too)

1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup each: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, wheat germ, raisins. I also usually add flax meal (ground flax seed), craisins and nuts, if I have them on hand (like slivered almonds or hazelnuts)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sometimes I also add a little cinnamon, about 1/2 teaspoon or less

Mix dry ingredients (MINUS the raisins) in 9"x12" pan - pour oil over and mix with hands. Bake at 375 degrees. STIR FREQUENTLY to keep from burning. Bake for about 20 minutes (ish - ? or more?) until some of the pieces of coconut start to get toasty brown. Add the raisins after it's out of the oven, unless you like the raisins (and craisins) a little cooked, in which case add them while it's still cooking.

We love this granola. Curtis calls it "nature's broom," if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I saw a commercial tonight that shows an Olympic athlete practicing alone, skating in a darkened rink. I thought about the dedication it takes for these athletes to get where they are right now, the long hours, the perseverence, the focus on the end goal, and I thought "I don't have that in me. I couldn't do that."

Then I realized that it was 10:30 at night and I was still up, doing dishes, after having put the kids to bed (along with Curtis) and picking up toys, books and dress up clothes, and still contemplating folding another load of laundry before heading to bed to get up and start it all over again.

So, no one is giving out medals for parenthood, and I'm not suggesting that I would get one if they did. But...I'm thinking I should give myself a little more credit for my dedication and focus on my personal goal - a happy, health, loving family.

Not doing too bad.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Saturday morning conversation with Vivian:
Viv: "Mom, can I wear this dress today?"
Me: "That's actually a nightgown. Let's get daytime clothes on."
Viv: "You call it a nightgown. I call it a dress."
Me: "Oh. Well, ok. I guess."


On Saturday morning I made a Valentine's Day breakfast. Even though the actual holiday wasn't until the following day, we get up early for church so there's no opportunity for a fun breakfast.

The kids with their raspberry jam faces:

For dessert that evening I made a cake with a strawberry sauce and whipped cream. Add sprinkles to anything and the kids think it's the best dessert ever. EVER.

And, the just because they're cute photo: watching Blues Clues on our television, which was Curtis's grandmother's - the first TV in Pleasant Grove, Utah. She won it in a raffle in 1950, I think. Grandma Wells gave it to Curtis several years ago (it had been sitting in their basement for years and years, broken) and he shipped it here from Utah. After determining that it really couldn't be fixed, he took the old TV tube out, bought a new TV and put it in the old cabinet through the back. It has doors that shut, too. It's so cool.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Future projects

I'm so excited for all this cool fabric I have, just waiting for me to get motivated enough to do something with it. Actually, I have so many half-finished projects right now that it's not so much motivation that's keeping me from getting started with this fabric as it is priorities. I have a yo-yo pillow that is almost finished (it never got finished in time for Christmas and now I'm just sick of seeing it hanging around!), a blanket project that I need to finish before Curtis's birthday on July 4 (and that one is going to take a loooong time, you'll see) and the pennant banners for Evan and Jenni's wedding.

So, when that stuff is under control, I can get going on some of this stuff. The green/blue/brown fabrics are for a quilt for Dexter. I'm thinking a twin size, but I'm not sure which bed he's going to end up in permanently, so we'll see. I'm also undecided if I'm going to do my regular quilt thing, which is just squares. I'm thinking maybe various-sized rectangles sewn together, sort of modern looking? I don't know. I'm not that hip, in the crafty sense (or any sense, really, unless we're talking the hip-size sense, and we're still working with Weight Watchers on that one, thankyouverymuch).

The pink and blue fabrics are for baby girl quilts for...I don't know who right now. Someone always seems to be having a baby and I just liked these fabrics so I thought I'd keep them on hand for someday.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Kathryn wanted to paint my nails today so badly. I had already painted her and Vivian's nails (clear with little sparkles - kind of cute, even though I am not a nail polish sort of person) and she kept asking if she could paint mine. So, I finally let her. She loved it.

Also, made chicken stew with dumplings tonight for dinner. Pretty good. Ate too much.

Another man down

He's got it now. This is not nearly as bad as last year's stomach bug event, which I named the Great VomitFest of '09 (more than 60 separate puke incidents and two ER visits spread over 7 days), but still. We've had better days.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Downhill fast

It seems the kids (or at least the girls) have come down with whatever I had yesterday. If you've never seen simultaneous puking, sure is a sight. Interesting, but not in the good way.

Those pictures I posted earlier of the girls eating donuts? They're a lot cuter going down than coming back up. Really.
I am so grateful that Curtis is at home today (though he does have to leave soon for a meeting tonight). When it all started going downhill fast I called for backup right away. Curtis came down from the office and took the girls upstairs for a bath while I buckled Betty in the high chair and got to work cleaning the floor...and the couch...and toys...and clothes. Betty was not happy about being stuck in the high chair while mom was cleeearly doing something more interesting on the floor.

On the plus side, the floor is super clean now.

This is Betty's favorite little toy, post-scrub down.
The other picture is Kathryn, post-scrub down.

Donuts with Dad

Curtis has been extremely busy lately - he had court for something like eight business days in a row. That's a lot of days in a row to be in court. So, this morning, since he had a little time (finally), he took the girls for walk downtown to go to the post office and get a donut.

Good times with Dad.

I'm feeling better, by the way. Not 100%, but better.

Curtis and I tried to see Mary on "The Good Wife" last night. We kept pausing it during the courtroom scenes, scrutinizing all of the blurry people in the background, trying to decide which one was Mary. It wasn't easy, but we finally decided which one we thought she was and discussed what a fine performance she gave. ("Did you see the way she reacted when the judge gave his ruling? That was real acting!")

Well, when I spoke with Mary this morning, it turns out that we all watched the wrong episode - hers hasn't aired yet! I felt a little silly, especially as I had already talked to two people who confessed they hadn't been able to see Mary at all, and I went on about how I could just tell, even though it was all blurry back there, which one was Mary and I even thought I recognized the cute jacket Mary was wearing (she wore her own clothes). Oh, silly me.
So, we're not sure when her episode is airing. I'll let you know. For real.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Me, not her. I'm sick today. She's just upset that I finally put her down.

Not quite sure what's wrong, but I started feeling nauseated last night, felt barfy all night and still feel so. (No, I am NOT pregnant! Just to get that out there. I think it's some kind of bug.) So, things that I am thankful for:
  • children's programming on TV
  • stacks of children's books
  • having cleaned the kitchen last night before I started feeling really awful - I prefer to be sick in a clean space
  • Cheerios - couldn't be easier and the kids love them
  • kids who don't mind being in pajamas all day (UPDATE - except Viv who insisted on getting dressed)

This is Vivian upset because her sister wouldn't let her read the counting book the way she wanted to. Or something like that. Somebody was bossing somebody.

She stopped crying after I showed her all the pictures I took of her while she was crying. :)

Things I am not thankful for are super-foul diapers that I have to change while trying not to lose my (non-existent) lunch and a 9-month-old who doesn't understand that mommy is sick and really can't hold her all day. (UPDATE - she's sleeping now, thank heaven.)

I'm hoping Curtis gets home from court soon and might be able to let me get a nap in or something. Darn all those people who want to talk to their lawyer today. (UPDATE - he's home and just finishing up some work in the office before he takes over down here with the kids - double thank heaven!!)

While I do feel lousy, I remind myself I could feel this way in Haiti. Or even feel healthy in Haiti - either way, I'm grateful to be in my home.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another Day

The kids begged for smoothies for breakfast again a few days ago. Amazingly, when you drink an icy cold smoothie on a February morning in Maine, sometimes you get a little CHILLY. The kids all made a beeline for the couch after they got cleaned up and snuggled all in together.

Later on, the girls decided they wanted to help clean and make things "shiny and new" as they put it. So, armed with damp cleaning rags (old washclothes) they scrubbed everything they could reach for a good 20 minutes. That's a long time for 3- and 4-year-olds!

Dex just decided he wanted to play with his sister, who he just loves.

He likes his mom ok, too.